What the Pluck?! Traceable Goose Down

We feel warmer (and fuzzier) already. That’s because from this season (fall 2014) forward, all Patagonia down products will contain only 100% Traceable Down. This means all the down in all their down products can be traced back to birds that were never force-fed and never live-plucked. The Traceable Down Standard provides the highest assurance of animal welfare in the apparel industry. Patagonia began working in 2007 to achieve this, and is the only brand to have done so.

Patagonia Women's Special Edition Fitz Roy Down Jacket.
Patagonia Women’s Special Edition Fitz Roy Down Jacket.

Longtime Cleanest Line readers will recall Patagonia’s first post on this issue, back in April 2011, when they were accused by the animal welfare organization Four Paws of using live-plucked down—a claim that turned out to be incorrect. During the controversy, though, Patagonia struck up a conversation with Four Paws, who said they suspected that—on the basis of photographs that appear on the Footprint Chronicles®—Patagonia was using down from gray geese that were raised for foie gras, which involves force-feeding to fatten the liver. Patagonia admitted in a subsequent blog post that, at the time, their down came from force-fed geese that were being raised for foie gras as well as meat (with down as a by-product).

Today, the assurance of sound animal welfare inherent in Patagonia’s 100% Traceable Down is the result of thousands of hours of work from executives, designers, material planners, sourcing departments, suppliers and a corporate social responsibility team. It was neither cheap nor easy, and Patagonia had to change their strategy and business operations to accomplish this. But building a product that helps you stay warm in good conscience is a legacy they’re justifiably are proud of.

Artwork: Geoff McFetridge. Courtesy Patagonia.com

Patagonia is often asked how they can ensure every bird is treated humanely. This can only be achieved by examining every single link in the down supply chain. It’s a very complicated process to explain so Patagonia asked Geoff McFetridge (the artist responsible for The Cleanest Line masthead) to lend a hand. This special presentation on Patagonia.com clearly illustrates both the problem—conventional down comes from birds that may have been live-plucked or force-fed—and the solution—Patagonia traces its entire down supply chain to verify the down is humanely sourced.

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As Patagonia moves forward with its efforts to ensure animal welfare, they are partnering with NSF International to continue to evaluate the down supply chain. NSF is a nonprofit standards and certification organization that is helping Patagonia to move beyond verification to gain certification for 100% Traceable Down in fall 2015. Patagonia will also continue working with others in the down industry to move toward a single certification standard. In the short term, this includes working with Four Paws, the Outdoor Industry Association, European Outdoor Group and the German Sporting Goods Industry Association (Bundesverband der Deutschen Sportartikel-Industrie) to evaluate existing standards and with the Textile Exchange steering committee to help improve its responsible down standard.

In the meantime, some of the caveats Patagonia first raised to its customers still apply. Vegans whose avoidance of animal products extends to shoe leather may want to avoid down clothing. Patagonia continues to offer many garments insulated with synthetic materials as alternatives.